Everyone knows that your grade point average (GPA) is one of the strongest aspects of a college admission application. But questions remain about whether colleges review your weighted or unweighted GPA -- or if they create their own weighting system once they review your transcripts.
Unfortunately, there is no one answer to these questions because every higher education institution does things differently, but in many cases, colleges will employ their own weighting systems to your grades.
"Many colleges — including Lawrence University — recalculate GPAs as a way to compare students from different high schools, curricula, and grading scales from all over the country," explains Ken Anselment, dean of admission and vice president for enrollment and communication at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis.
"At Lawrence, for example, we create an unweighted academic GPA on a 4.0 scale that considers course performance in English/communication arts; mathematics; languages; natural sciences; history/social sciences," Anselment says. "We also note in our calculations how many of those academic courses are so-called rigorous courses (e.g., International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement, honors, etc.)."
Similar methods are employed at other schools across the country, says Laurie Kopp Weingarten, co-founder and director of One-Stop College Counseling in Marlboro, N.J. "Part of what independent education consultants do is visit colleges and speak to admission officers about their processes. Based on all the conversations I've had with admission officers, there is no standard method standard way of analyzing GPAs," she notes. "Many colleges will recalculate the GPA to suit their needs (including or omitting non-core classes, weighing/unweighting the GPA so that there's one standardized approach for everyone) while others use the GPA right off of the transcript. Some want the weighted GPA; others will use an unweighted GPA but separately assess the rigor of the classes."
Because there is no standard way for colleges to assess GPAs, the best thing to do is just aim to achieve the best grades you can so you have the highest GPA possible.
"What I tell my students is, "Focus on the core classes (English, Science, Math, History, Foreign Language and Religion if it's a religious high school) and try to get the highest grades you can," says Weingarten.